Off Topic: Comparing SciFi Universes… Star Wars vs. 40K

So, this happened.

Last night I got a message on Deviant Art in response to my blog post about the Cylons vs. various SciFi factions that pretty much ignited my nerd drive for the remainder of the evening.

“reasonable thoughts in some cases, like Cylons vs Matrix or Imperium of Man from W40k. I was debating about W40k and Star Wars interaction with some friends several times and I´m pretty sure that the Star Wars would never stood a chance, since for example they have poorly armed and armored space ships compared to the Imperial Navy from W40k. Any opinions on this one? =)

This got my brain brewing and for the next 3 hours I started gathering as much information as possible on both the Galactic Empire (something I’m a bit less familiar with) and the Imperium of Man.  I have included my response below, as well as some additional considerations.

“The Empire from Star Wars vs. The Imperium from Warhammer 40,000…I think this is pretty one sided in the Imperium’s favor. Also, take into account that I am comparing the Galactic Empire at its height to the Imperium of Man during its decline… were we to compare the Galactic Empire to the Imperium during the Great Crusade there would be no debate, whatsoever. The powers of the full legions, the primarchs, the living Emperor, the Imperial Army, the Mechanicum, and the Imperial Navy would steamroll any military effort put forth by the Galactic Empire without fail.



Surprisingly, The Empire in Star Wars controls 69 million planetary systems and 1.75 million full member worlds (ya, I checked). The Imperium of Man only has ‘more than a million’ worlds, so it actually is smaller than the Galactic Empire (this shocked me). Although population does not directly affect the size of a faction’s military, it does hint to the strength of its infrastructure, economy, and ability to refresh fatigued forces.


This is a tough one. Both the Galactic Empire and the Imperium of Man are described as having ‘innumerable’ forces, pushing somewhere into the trillions. However, I actually think that the Imperium of Man may have the superior military. I’m basing this off of the several factors.

In both universes, the military is comprised entirely of humans (or demihumans like squats and ogryns). Since the Galactic Empire is not entirely composed of humans, this ‘humanocentrism’ acts as a handicap. I can’t imagine that the recruiting pool, even including clones, could be larger than the total population of the Imperium. Furthermore, nearly every storm trooper in the Empire’s army is trained on Carida; that’s a pretty small bottleneck for raising the elite of your military.

Conversely, every planet in the Imperium is populated solely by humans (and sometimes demihumans) providing an enormous recruiting pool. Also, nearly all planets (barring certain isolated planets, like agriworlds) in the Imperium have their own PDF (planetary defense forces) which remain on each world. On top of this, the Imperial Guard has the ability to, at least according to some of the codices and the “Imperial Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer,” recruit a planetary tithe of at least 10% of each Imperial planet’s population annually. I’m not sure if this is canon, but if so that’s a lot of soldiers. Furthermore, certain planets, like Cadia, are pretty much wholly recruiting grounds where 100% of the population are raised as soldiers. On top of this, The Imperium is bolstered by the forces of the Adeptus Astartes, Collegia Titanica, Adepta Sororitas, Adeptus Custodes, Adeptus Arbites, Frateris Militia, Inquisition, and Assassins. Also, I don’t know about you, but I think a single Space Marine (there are approximately 1,000,000 of them) would be able to kill dozens of storm troopers single-handedly.

In terms of a naval size, the Imperium has between 50 and 75 ships (all cruiser or larger size) for each sector battle fleet, but the number of sectors per segmentum (there are 5 segmenti)is highly variable. I would, however, guess that there are many, many sectors since most planetary systems seem to be considered sectors. Therefore, there could potentially be 75,000,000 ships in the Imperial Navy (not including escort vessels, supply ships, etc). The Star Wars navy, on the other hand, at its peak fielded millions of warships, logistics vessels and fighters. I’m going to go ahead and say that the Imperial Navy of Warhammer 40,000 is far larger.

In terms of physical size, the Imperium’s ships totally dwarf those of the Galactic Empire. An average star destroyer is only 1-2km long while the average cruiser (most common vessel in Imperium’s navy) is between 5-6 km long. The largest ships in the Imperium’s navy are between 6-8 km long and several are stationed within each sector battle fleet. The largest ships in Star Wars history were the Imperial Dreadnoughts which were 18 km long, but only 2 were ever built.

Special Powers-

By the time of the Galactic Empire, there are very few Jedi or Sith remaining. I’m probably totally wrong here, but according to the Star Wars wiki the Empire’s military was only truly effective when under the direct control of those wielding the force, primarily Lord Vader. Since Darth Vader is only one man and can only be at one battle at a time, this is a severe hamper on the overall military efficacy of the Galactic Empire.

The Imperium of Man, on the other hand, has billions of powerful psykers serving in the Imperial Guard, Adeptus Astartes, and all branches of the Inquisition. Furthermore, the Imperium has the elite forces of the Ordo Malleus, the Grey Knights. I can’t really imagine any single force in the Galactic Empire standing up to the onslaught of the Grey Knights. Also, while there is certainly no direct relationship between psychic powers and ‘The Force,’ it would be interesting if the Ordo Hereticus hunted the Jedi and Sith using their anti-psychic wares.

The technology of both factions in question is very difficult to assess. Both factions are highly advanced, widely using laser weaponry, faster-than-light travel, and are space-faring. Also, both factions have the ability to create robots and other AI, although the Imperium chooses not to due previous ‘thinking’ machine insurrections.
In terms of basic military equipment, both line Troopers and Imperial Guardsmen seem to be similarly armed. The Empire’s laser blaster is essentially equivalent to an Imperial Lasgun for all intents in purposes. Similarly, the intense training and indoctrination of even the most basic soldiers is common in both factions. I would place the Storm Troopers on a level equal to Imperial Kasrkin or Veterans, however.
I don’t think it’s feasible to compare every military asset between the two factions, as I have neither the time nor inclination, but I will say that the Imperium, in addition to its tanks, APCs, artillery, air force, super heavy vehicles, and other detachments employs gene-enhanced super warriors and battle titans, whereas the Empire does not. From what I’ve seen from the movies and read online, there is nothing even comparable within the Galactic Empire.
In terms of mobility, I must give the edge to the Galactic Empire. The Galactic Empire uses tried and true hyperdrives which consistently provide fast and safe travel between star systems. The Imperium, on the other hand, uses Warp Engines, plunging themselves into the depths of the Immaterium without guaranteed safety. Although comparable in terms of speed, the reliability of hyperdrives is the deciding factor here.

Another huge deciding factor is the ability to wipe out planets entirely. The Death Star and its successor super weapons were so terrifying because they could destroy a planet (or system in some cases) single-handedly. However, each and every sector or space marine battle fleet can completely level a planet with exterminatus. Were the Imperium so inclined, it could jump from planet to planet and exterminate each Galactic planet. Conversely, The Galactic Empire only constructed a few super weapons of such power and never (to my knowledge) did any exist at the same time.

So, overall I’m giving it to the Imperium of Man… for the Emperor!”

So what do you think of my assessment? Do you think I’m dead on, or way off? Do you like these types of posts, or do you prefer I stick to drawing and keep my nerdy pasions to myself?

Let me know! I always would like to hear what you have to say.


See full post here: Nicholas Kay - Freelance Artist + Illustrator2012-04-21.